The Saving Our Coins Challenge
Welcome back to the blog,
It's been an interesting two weeks here in Jamaica...and fortunately we are not alone. I took a week off from the blog to reflect as per usual. Not only did I manage to reflect, but I actually did experience the effects of Hurricane...then Tropical Storm...then Hurricane...then Tropical Storm Elsa. This phenomenon was interesting to observe. I'm sure that all of us who watched many weather reports on the Elsa...learned how disorganized "she" was. "Disorganized" was the word of the week when Elsa was passing your way. For this reason...the storm actually slightly fizzled by the time it reached us here in Jamaica (who knew the Blue Mountains were that great)...and as Elsa was passing by...I was literally all cozy up in my apartment...eating the good food I bought on the Friday before...and watching every Hallmark movie known to womankind.
As I reflected on the pandemic, Elsa, and the recent snowstorm in Texas, the wildfires in California and Australia before that, I realized that there's really something that's brewing up in the atmosphere...and it's been happening for decades. As we become more industrialized and utilize fossil fuels...we reverse what the Earth has been trying to do...for millions of years before. As a Chemist, one can see that the Earth is a natural carbon capture enterprise. During industrialization, we as humans dug up the oil that was generated to capture this carbon, and then combusted it to release its energy...and ultimately created a greenhouse that is now the breeding ground for various weather phenomena. All of us are now being affected. We have to protect ourselves, and for this reason...I decided to start the Saving Our Coins series. Here are a few tips that will help all of us...thrive during these slightly uncertain times. I say slightly now...because we've all been in uncertainty for a hot minute now since 2020. It just so happens that every now and then...there's one more thing that's added to the mix.
Tip #1: Start a Prepper Pantry
As a millennial...I once remember watching an episode of The Simpsons where a comet hit Springfield and everyone was able to retreat to someone's underground cave. It was hilarious in retrospect, and interestingly quite symbollic of what's happening right now. While the odds of a comet hitting the Earth are slim...the odds of a hurricane, snowstorm fire and landslide are actually increasing. For this reason, we actually need to be taking the time to ensure that our families are protected. As a start, take the time to assess if where you are living is safe.
Before you purchase a home, determine whether the area is flood prone, prone to bush fires, earthquakes etc, and then make the best decision that you can. Once you are living in that home...ensure that your home is well stocked with food. You don't have to have an entire supermarket in your garage, but ensure that you have at least three days to a week's worth of food on hand for everyone. Most people have access to supermarkets, and the supply of food via that medium will almost always be available, but in the event of a weather phenomenon...you need a few days worth of food on hand to ensure that you survive the gap between when the storm arrives and the whole place shuts down, and the lag to reopen after it passes. The water has to clear, the clean up has to take place...and then life returns to normal. As a general rule of thumb ensure that you have on hand:
a) Enough water on hand for drinking and hygiene purposes. This varies per family so research what volume will work for you and your family. For the record...you don't have to buy water. Save a few large bottles (those laundry bottles with the spout are great), get them in a colour like blue that signifies water, and then clean them and fill them up from your tap after you are finished with them as laundry bottles and you are good to go. Store them where you will have ready access to them in an emergency.
b)Bleach. This is the goodness of God when it comes to hygiene. After a storm...water supply is always affected. A few drops in gallons of water can save you from illness during the aftermath of an event.
c)Shelf stable food. A dollar a week dedicated to your prepper pantry will ensure that you have 52 items in your pantry in a year. While I don't recommend eating tinned food every day, when a storm arrives...you'll be glad for the tin of spam, tin of mixed vegetables and the pasta you had stored up across the year. That's a meal that you can create in about twenty minutes while you wait for life to restore. Stock up where you can.
d)Batteries and Flash Lights
e) Matches for the stove if you have a gas stove. Electric stoves are great, but in the event of power loss, it's always a good idea...to have a gas stove. They operate independently of electrical system and you can still do things like boil water and eat in an outage.
This list is not exhaustive, and it's a good idea to watch some YouTube videos that highlight persons who have a prepper pantry or emergency food storage of some sort. For those who can't create such huge stockpiles instantly...you can do what I do...and have an emergency cupboard. I found out that Elsa was approaching on the Friday before she arrived, and thankfully had a cupboard full of food that I was accumulating over the months ahead. All I had to do...on the way home after hearing the storm was approaching...was buy a loaf of bread and some milk...and I was good to go. It's always a good idea to be prepared.
Tip#2: Start a Home Garden
Those who are subscribed to my Instagram will have seen the garden that I started during the pandemic. Essentially...because we could barely go anywhere, and I was working from home...outside was the ideal place to be. In my quest to not have to go to the supermarket as much, I started planting vegetable seeds. Within a month...I had tomatoes, lettuce, callaloo and sweet peppers that I could actually get from right outside my kitchen window.
The feeling of liberation that that gave me is un-describable. I'm not saying that you must start a farm and grow all your meat and produce. I'm just saying that if you can find a way to become more "off grid" where your food is concerned, you won't have to worry too much when there's an emergency. You can actually preserve your excess food (think the modern version of Little House on the Prairie). While the rest of the world is stressing out over food...you can just reach out for your jar of pickles and be good to go. Ready meal in twenty minutes!
Many people think that gardening is a luxury...but the truth is...anyone can do it. Create a green house with a little mesh and beams from the hardware store (cue inspiration pic above), piece them all together in a DIY session, and you'll be all set on your gardening adventures. Additionally, you can start your garden with food you already buy from the supermarket. Fruits and veg are loaded with seeds, and if you dry them and plant them...you can plant your garden for free ninety nine!! Additionally...seeds don't usually cost much more than a dollar a pack...so you can start your garden on a budget. Some of the best things in life...like time and food can be free!
Tip #3: Buy Generic in all aspects of life
For every aspect of life that I can think of...one of the greatest tips I've ever been given is to buy generic. The generic bug...is one that hits you at a particular phase of life. I call this phase of life...The Wisdom Phase. I'm sure we all can relate to the scenario below:
You start off in life with no cares or worries in the world. You are taken care of...you grow up...and ultimately have to fend for yourself. All of a sudden you realize that with all the expenses that come with adulting...certain things you would buy without batting an eyelid...are now eating into your budget. Buying that additional body splash, buying that new handbag, or new Clarks or tools (for my male readers) could be the difference between you saving that money, or paying the internet bill. So...you start to do without...until you discover that there are other products on the shelf that help you to achieve your needs of looking, feeling and smelling good. This is the point at which you are introduced to the World of Generics. Life is then good again...you are able to fulfill your objectives...and still pay your bills. The generic life is awesome. Great categories to buy generic are:
a) Cleaning products. As an industrial engineer I can assure you that buying generic cleaning products can save you thousands of dollars per year. Quality is comparable across the board with most things. With a little testing...you'll find the products that are able to give you that bang for your buck. Additionally...to make them stretch...you can dilute them. One bottle of cleaning solution will easily become two.
b)Pharmaceuticals: With time...patents do expire. For a couple cents you can buy Ibuprofen, instead of spending the dollars on brands like Bayer. With the pandemic in swing...it should comfort you that you can treat your loved ones with off the shelf products for pennies, instead of having to spend loads on prescriptions. Via research online...you'll be able to know exactly what to purchase to treat those ailments that affect you and your family.
c) Hygiene products: There are certain things that we all need in order to live a healthy life. We all need bathroom tissue, bath soaps, lotions, toothpaste and other essentials that keep us functioning as people. In all categories exists the high end version of a product, the middle range and the lower range. With a little experimentation, you'll discover what you can thrive on. Where you can purchase in bulk and minimize the unit cost.
d) Certain food products: As a bougie child with a practical mum, I grew up wanting all the foods that received major highlights on the TV. My mum, being the sage she was...would never buy the name brand. She wouldn't deprive me...she'd honestly just buy the generic version of what I wanted...and by some financial miracle...there would be twice as much food in the pantry because she bought the generic option. Instead of one pack of the name brand...you get two of the generic and most times...you can't taste the difference. If you have children, the costs do add up...so utilizing generics is a great way to feed them on a budget. There will always be food...if you are wise with your money.
Tip #4: Understand your supermarket's cycle
As a general rule of thumb, it's always a good idea to live simply on the day to day, and then splurge on the special occasion. There are many creative ways to live well on a budget. As a general rule of thumb...choose your supermarket wisely. We all have to eat food, so ensure that you are being rewarded for purchasing at a supermarket. My supermarket actually gives points per purchase. Yours truly...Frugal Fran...saves my points...and utilizes them at Christmas Time. Christmas Time is a celebration of the end of the year along with the true sentiment...and people do expect the ham to be present, the cake to be baked and their presents to be under the tree. Instead of stressing yourself out over Christmas prepare for it in advance. Saving just $20 a month, can give you an extra couple hundred dollars to spend on Christmas and you won't even have to think about it. Be Prepared.
So once you are there in the supermarket you will need:
a) Time. If you're in a rush...you will more than likely buy things out of convenience. If you are full and have two hours...you can then stand in front of all the items...and take the time to calculate the price of each product and identify if the quality will suit your needs. The supermarket favors those who take the time to read the prices. You'll be surprised to know...that the barbecue Snackables cost a dollars more than the Hot and Spicy Snackables. Knowing this will sway you to purchase the item that will save you more money. Additionally...as you scan the shelves...you'll see what's on special.
b) Your budget. The budget is your best friend. In order to be disciplined, you can take the cash for the week and walk with that into the store. With a debit card, you can be lax and say..."Oh...it's just a couple dollars over. With cash, you can only acquire what you have on hand. Cashiers have no problem in these digital times...with subtracting what is on the list until you reach your target. Put back what will carry you over budget and learn to live on what you can afford.
Tip#4: Read your bank statements
I don't know if it's just me...but the bank seems to be charging for everything these days. There are monthly account maintenance fees, fees for withdrawal from the ATM, fees for point of sale purchases and even fees for transfer of funds for various purposes. Reading your statement will allow you to see clearly these fees.
When I discovered this...I started withdrawing money from the ATM less times (increasing the quantity to ensure that it covered the time frame of course) and conducting less in store impulse purchases. Knowing the penalty will actually cause you to be more disciplined.
Tip #5: Check your bills
In Jamaica, we have two predominant internet suppliers. Yours truly decided to sign up for an internet package for one of these options, in order to be comfortable at my apartment. I need the internet for communication, for work and for my business. For some strange reason...the company completely mixed up my request. Here is what happened to me over the past three months with the service:
a) When I signed up...I put myself as the primary and my mum as the alternate contact. I filled out a form and submitted it, along with a photocopy of my ID. I don't know who entered the data...but the person input my mum as the primary and me as the alternate contact. When it was time for the modem to be installed, they were calling her instead of me. I had to make that change ASAP.
b) A week later...the modem was installed...and then there was internet access!! One good month later...the bill comes...and it's a little higher than I thought. "That's strange....I could have sworn I told the guy I wanted package A". When I investigated...it seems they upgraded me without knowing...and I was actually for three whole months...paying for package B...when I had placed package A on my form. I guess they thought...that I wouldn't have noticed.
When it comes to your utilities...ensure that you are paying for the right package. In some instances...you really don't need the 100 channels when you only are watching twenty percent...so only pay for what you need. You will save hundreds via this method.
In Jamaica...there's a proverb that says..."Every mickle make a muckle." It's essentially referencing the ability for efforts to compound. Every dollar you spend by growing your own tomatoes, every dollar you save by using generic products, every dollar you save by not making so many online transactions, every dollar you save by downgrading your entertainment package...will generate income for you in the future.
These are some interesting times!! Be wise!! I am personally living and learning.
I love you for reading!!
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